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26*             A SEARCH IN SECRET EGYPT
evil serpent as well as a good one. The former was generally drawn crawling, the latter upright. They had their devil in the form of Apepi, the dark, many-folded serpent who was head of the powers of darkness, i.e. the devil.
But there was a higher symbolism which was recognized, and it was this:
The serpent offers a perfect symbol of the energising creative Force of the Supreme Spirit who created the universe, and of the creation itself. The Pharaohs wore the figure of a hooded serpent in the front of their headdress, as a symbol of their claimed divine descent. The serpent thus stood for divinity as well as—in certain species—for the devil.
The first force that moved across the dark face of the deep at the beginning of Creation was this divine force which was typified by the good serpent. Just as a snake assumes a hundred different patterns in its movements and yet remains one, so the universe assumed unnumbered patterns (shapes or forms of things and creatures) and yet, in its essential nature, remains the one Spirit. Science has begun to endorse the kst sentence, merely using another name for Spirit. Just as the snake periodically throws off its old dead skin and assumes a new one, so the forms which compose the universe die and are then, quickly or slowly, thrown back into the primal state of matter. "Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return/* . . . Yet the symbolism does not end there. The new skin of the serpent stands for the new form into which that matter will ultimately be shaped. And just as the serpent continues to live despite the death of its outer skin, so the Spirit is undying and remains immortal despite the death of its outer forms.
The serpent is self-moving; it is unassisted by hands, feet, or other external limbs. So too, is the Creative Force entirely self-moving as it passes from form to form in its building of a whole wond or of a single creature.
When the Egyptians portrayed the scaled serpent biting its own tail, thus forming a complete circle, they meant that to symbolize the created universe itself. The scales are the stars. The act of biting itself symbolizes the self-dissolution of the universe which must one day arrive, when the Spirit withdraws from Matter.
In the symbolism of the snake, there are many other meanings tanging from the divine to the devilish. There is finally the special meaning assigned it in the Mysteries.